For the first time in Masters history, a 14-year-old has made the cut at Augusta.
Tianlang Guan will play on Saturday and Sunday at Augusta at the 2013 Masters after shooting a three-over 75 on Friday during second-round action, bringing his total score to four-over and leaving him just above the 2013 cut line.
Guan might have been clear of any speculation that he could miss the cut, but was assessed a one-stroke penalty on No. 17 that pushed his total score to four-over. This left him right in the vicinity of the cut-off, based on where Masters leaders were situated at the time.
With current leader Jason Day threatening to push the cut line beyond Guan's reach, he finished with a par on No. 18 and Guan survived, staying behind the leader within the 10-stroke limit participants must fall into if they wish to avoid going home early. The Associated Press helped break the news on Twitter:
BREAKING: 14-yeard-old Guan Tianlang of China makes cut at Masters, youngest ever on PGA Tour.— The Associated Press (@AP) April 12, 2013
Not only did Guan have to deal with the overwhelming task of handling the magnitude of this course, but he had to deal with the tournament committee assessing him a one-stroke penalty for slow play on the 17th hole (via Will Brinson of CBS Sports):
Tianlang Guan was given a 1-stroke penalty for slow play!— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) April 12, 2013
Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel was up in arms about the ruling (as is most of the viewing audience):
Tianlang Guan was assessed a one-stroke penalty for slow play?! What a time and what a player for officials to start making such a ruling.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) April 12, 2013
With the extra stroke added to his final total, Guan was still able to finish at three-over on Friday, and managed to squeak into the third round to become the youngest player to ever advance beyond the first two rounds of action at Augusta.
The feat breaks the record of pairing-partner Matteo Manassero, who made the cut and broke the initial record of being the youngest Masters participant ever when he was 16. ESPN's Numbers Never Lie had the breakdown on Twitter:
At 14, Tiangliang Guan would be 2 yrs younger than anybody to make cut at #Masters (his partner today Matteo Manassero made cut at 16 yrs).— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) April 12, 2013
Guan, who made this tournament after winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in November, got off to a rough start in his first-ever Masters appearance on Thursday afternoon.
After hitting a nice tee shot out of the box with partners Manassero, Ben Crenshaw and the first-hole crowd looking on, Guan ultimately bogeyed en route to three front-nine bogeys and a two-over score at the turn.
He then climbed back, hitting three birdies on the back nine—including a beautiful fringe putt on No. 18—to finish his day at one-over and in clear contention to make the cut in his first try at Augusta.
Friday's round was another early struggle, but Guan hit nine straight pars over the final 11 holes (11 straight if you ignore the penalty) to maintain his place above the cut at four-over, and will play again on Saturday and Sunday to add to his growing golf legacy.
Guan actually made par on No. 17, but was assessed the extra stroke after the putt. The Augusta National committee could be seen chatting with him during the round and told him on No. 17 that a stroke would be added for slowing the pace down too much.
After his round was through, there was clear uncertainty about his placement above the cut—even with the added stroke. While within 10 strokes of the leader, Guan was outside of the top 50 and had to rely on the 10-stroke rule as a fail-safe for making the cut.
Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel had this suspenseful tweet:
History waits-14 yr old Tianlang Guan posts +4, waits to see if he makes cut. Outside top 50, eyeing 10 shot rule. Lead at -6— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) April 12, 2013
The one-stroke penalty ended up being just a footnote on Guan's epic run through this course so far.
No matter what happens over the next two rounds, the Chinese youngster who should be getting ready for his weekend with friends will now have a shot (albeit an outside one) at winning the green jacket in a major championship.
It's an accomplishment that others can only dream of.
Guan has been the feel-good story of the 2013 Masters so far—moving on to the final two rounds or not. Showing poise, maturity, golf knowledge and club strength far beyond his years, he is now in position to make history yet again on golf's biggest stage.